Williams College

Location: Williamstown, Massachusetts
Type: Private

Stay informed about Williams College and its track record for free speech, due process, and academic freedom.

Speech Code Rating

Williams College has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more

Campus Climate

Overall Ranking

out of 154 colleges surveyed Read more
  • Code of Conduct: Individual Rights

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: October 19, 2021

    Accepting membership in this community entails an obligation to behave with courtesy to others whose beliefs and behavior differ from one’s own; all members and guests of this community must be free of disturbance or harassment, including racial and sexual harassment. Read More
  • Defining Sexual Misconduct: Sexual Harassment

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: October 19, 2021

    Sexual harassment means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when … such conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating or hostile educational or working environment. Read More
  • Bias Incident Reporting

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech
    Last updated: October 19, 2021

    Members of the college community who would like to report a bias incident or believe they have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct are encouraged to bring these concerns forward. Concerns may be brought directly to the Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion o... Read More
  • Computing Ethics and Responsibilities

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: October 19, 2021

    Williams College has written standards of conduct that seek to prohibit annoyance and harassment by any members of the Williams College community. You may not use computing resources to violate the College’s standards of conduct. You may not distribute electronic chain letters or spam. These are not only annoying, b... Read More
  • Campus Life: Events- Campus Postings Policy

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: October 19, 2021

    All postings must clearly indicate the name & email and/or phone for the person and/or group responsible for the posting. … The College seeks to assure the ability of all students to express themselves freely. At the same time, Williams has a responsibility to ensure that no member of this community is int... Read More
  • Campus Life: Events- General Event Policies

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: October 19, 2021

    All events should be requested in advance as far out of the event date as possible through Room Scheduler EMS. … Outdoor events must be requested and registered through the Office of Campus Life and approved by Facilities and Campus Safety.   Read More
  • Student Handbook: Student Organization Policies- Fundraising Activities

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Other Speech Codes
    Last updated: October 19, 2021

    RSO’s that have budgets from FAST are expected to utilize the funds granted to them for the stated RSO’s purposes. There are several purposes for which these funds are NOT to be used, including: … any activity that is offensive to the community Read More
  • Code of Conduct: Individual Rights

    Speech Code Rating: Green
    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: October 19, 2021

    Williams College … is committed to being a community in which all ranges of opinion and belief can be expressed and debated, and within which all patterns of behavior permitted by the public law and College regulations can take place. Read More
  • Defining Sexual Misconduct: Title IX Sexual Harassment

    Speech Code Rating: Green
    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: October 19, 2021

    Title IX sexual harassment is conduct on the basis of sex that satisfies one or more of the following: … Unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the college’s education program or activity; ... Read More
  • Campus Life: Events- Campus Protest Policy

    Speech Code Rating: Green
    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: October 19, 2021

    Williams recognizes and supports the right of students on our campus to protest peacefully within the framework of the college’s policies. Protests may take many forms including, but not limited to: assemblies, demonstrations, rallies and picketing, displaying fliers/posters/banners, distribution of leaflets and pet... Read More

FIRE surveyed roughly 37,000 students at 154 colleges and universities about the climate for free speech at their institutions. In 2021, FIRE released rankings of those schools, based on a number of factors, including openness, tolerance, self-expression, administrative support for free speech, and campus policies, scoring overall speech climate on a scale from 0-100. See the full report on FIRE’s 2021 College Free Speech Rankings for more information.



Overall Ranking 71/154
Ideological Diversity 149/159

Overall / out of a top score of 100

Overall Score 59.62
Openness 10.18
Tolerance (Liberals) 12.01
Tolerance (Conservatives) 7.55
Administrative Support 5.45
Comfort 14.64
Disruptive Conduct 9.8
Speech Code YELLOW
  • Williams College: Student Group Denied Recognition for Pro-Israel Viewpoint

    May 15, 2019

    On April 23, 2019, Williams College’s student government, the College Council, voted to deny Registered Student Organization status to prospective student group Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) because of the group’s pro-Israel viewpoint. Recognition was denied to WIFI even though it had complied with all College Council Requirements, making WIFI the first club in over… Read more

  • Williams College: Suppression of Freedom of Association by Nondiscrimination Policy

    December 15, 2000

    FIRE successfully defeated a Williams College proposal that denied students’ right to free association by requiring clubs adopt non-discrimination language. Williams College only mentioned the category of sexual orientation—not, for example, the category of religion or race—and justified this imposition by asserting, without any specific citations, that Williams’ actions in this regard were “completely dictated… Read more

  • Williams College ‘Inquiry and Inclusion’ report a mixed bag on campus free speech, will bear further watching

    July 18, 2019

    Last month, Williams College announced a final report released by the college’s Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion. The report covers a wide range of topics related to freedom of expression and open inquiry on Williams’ campus, and the committee members (and Williams as a whole) are to be commended for their careful attention… Read more

  • So to Speak podcast: Words, violence, and censorship at Williams College

    May 30, 2019

     On today’s episode of So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast, we are joined by Williams College Professor of Biology Luana Maroja. Professor Maroja’s experience growing up under a dictatorship in Brazil led her to become an outspoken advocate for free speech at Williams College and a skeptic of the idea that words are… Read more

  • After viewpoint-based denial, Williams Initiative for Israel finally receives recognition

    May 16, 2019

    On May 7, FIRE wrote that Williams College needed to do more to protect students’ free expression in light of the College Council’s April 23 vote to deny recognition to student group Williams Initiative for Israel because of its pro-Israel stance. We reiterated that call in a letter sent to the college yesterday, writing that… Read more

  • Pro-Israel group denied recognition by Williams College student government, administration’s response falls short

    May 15, 2019

    FIRE: The student government abused its authority WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., May 15, 2019 — The president of Williams College says she is “disappointed” that the student government refused to grant official club recognition to a student group based solely on its pro-Israel viewpoint. She’s expressed concerns about the group’s treatment — but more must be done…. Read more

  • Williams College Council denies recognition to pro-Israel student group

    May 7, 2019

    In Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth, the Supreme Court held that “[w]hen a university requires its students to pay fees to support the extracurricular speech of other students, all in the interest of open discussion, it may not prefer some viewpoints to others.” While this standard is only required… Read more

  • FIRE Announces America’s 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech: 2017

    February 22, 2017

    PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 22, 2017—More than 92 percent of American colleges maintain speech codes that either clearly restrict—or could too easily be used to restrict—free speech. Each year, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) takes a closer look at campus censorship to identify America’s 10 worst colleges for free speech. The 2017 list of… Read more

  • Williams College’s Zach Wood Won’t Back Down on Free Speech (VIDEO)

    April 15, 2016

    In February, Williams College President Adam Falk unilaterally disinvited controversial writer John Derbyshire from the school’s student-run “Uncomfortable Learning” speaker series. The reason, according to President Falk, was that Derbyshire’s views—which have been called racist and sexist—made people too uncomfortable. In short, Adam Falk missed the point. Uncomfortable Learning’s president, Williams sophomore Zach Wood, wrote… Read more

  • Williams College’s Zachary R. Wood: ‘Racism Is a Pathetic Excuse for Disinviting a Speaker from Campus’  

    February 22, 2016

    Editor’s Note: In the wake of Williams College President Adam Falk’s decision to forbid writer John Derbyshire from coming to campus at the invitation of the student-run “Uncomfortable Learning” speaker series, FIRE reached out to the program’s president, sophomore Zachary R. Wood, and invited him to share his thoughts with readers of The Torch. In… Read more

  • The Condescending Paternalism of Williams President Adam Falk

    February 19, 2016

    As FIRE co-founder Alan Charles Kors has said, “You cannot say to people, you’re too weak to live with freedom. Only that group is strong enough to live with freedom.” But that’s exactly what Adam Falk, the patronizing president of Williams College, has said to the college’s student body. Yesterday, Falk unilaterally canceled a speech… Read more

  • Williams College Bars ‘Uncomfortable Learning’ Speaker from Campus, Declares ‘Hate Speech’ Too Uncomfortable

    February 18, 2016

    Williams College has disinvited a second speaker from its student-run “Uncomfortable Learning” speaker series, a program specifically developed to bring controversial viewpoints to campus. Unlike the first disinvitation, which came at the behest of the speaker series’ student organizers, this order came directly from the college president. Williams President Adam Falk said in a statement… Read more

  • Speaker Disinvited from ‘Uncomfortable Learning’ Series for Making Students Uncomfortable

    October 22, 2015

    Students at Williams College in Massachusetts disinvited self-described “cultural critic” Suzanne Venker, author of The War on Men and The Flip Side of Feminism, from the “Uncomfortable Learning” speaker series after other students protested her scheduled talk on campus. According to Inside Higher Ed, the Uncomfortable Learning series is run by Williams students and funded… Read more

  • The State of Free Speech on Campus: Williams College

    December 20, 2012

    This winter, FIRE will be presenting a blog series on the state of free speech at ten of America’s top liberal arts colleges. First up: Williams College in Massachusetts. Williams fares quite well in comparison to many of its counterparts when it comes to protecting free speech on campus, but there is still room for… Read more

  • The Censors’ Favorite Team

    February 4, 2005

    Tens of millions of people across America will watch the Philadelphia Eagles take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX this Sunday night. In a gesture of magnanimity before the big game, those of us at FIRE’s headquarters here in Philadelphia would like to tip our hat to all the New England college administrators… Read more

  • FIRE’s Letter to Williams’ College

    December 15, 2000

    Morton Owen Schapiro President Williams College P.O. Box 687 Williamstown MA 01267 RE: Williams College Non-Discrimination Policy Dear Dr. Schapiro: As you can see from our Directors and Board of Advisors, FIRE unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, due… Read more